By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin February 27, 2012 at 3:20PM
As tired as I am of the long award season that leads up to the Oscars, I am even wearier of the professional complainers whose job, it seems, is to find fault with the Academy Awards show every year, as well as the honors they bestow. I don’t agree with all of the Academy’s choices, and I’m not blind to the faults of the telecast, but it’s become a perpetual punching bag for pundits who are determined not to like what they see. Enough already.
The same people who found last night’s show, and host, old-fashioned were just as eager to snipe at the Academy when it radically altered the event several years ago. I enjoyed that innovative broadcast, and I liked last night’s as well. I could have done without the opening movie montage and song parodies, but Billy Crystal has the comic savvy to punctuate the show with spontaneous reactions and zingers from start to finish. That adds welcome entertainment value—and laughs—to the mix. For that I’m willing to forgive his self-indulgence.
I thought it was a classy and unusually well-paced show; there were no real lulls, which is a rarity. I realized, long ago, that the odds of the Oscar show being great entertainment were pretty tall. They have so many awards to hand out—mostly to people we don’t know or recognize—that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain momentum and rooting interest for more than three hours.
The show is at the mercy of its winners. If, like so many of this year’s recipients, they express their honest emotions, and reveal a sense of humor, they make us care, even if we don’t know who they are.
As to the rest, how can you not be moved when an entire audience leaps to its feet to cheer Octavia Spencer, who was unknown to them just one year ago? How can you be bored when Meryl Streep wins the Best Actress award—and then gives a disarming, self-deprecating speech?
When it comes to the selections, I heard several observers claim that the Academy was embracing “nostalgia” by honoring The Artist andHugo. Give me a break! Hugo represents cutting-edge storytelling by a world-class director—in 3-D, no less. The Artist dares to revisit a form of cinema that was abandoned in the late 1920s. The Academy members admired these films for making the past seem immediate and relevant. That has nothing to do with nostalgia; it has everything to do with great moviemaking, which is what the Academy Awards are all about.